How many of you intentionally throw your recyclables into the garbage?
How many of you leave your lights on all day and night?
How many of you drive an SUV?
Hopefully you all said no to those above questions. We are clearly in a difficult time when it comes to the environment. With rapidly rising temperatures and rapidly shrinking icecaps, there is simply no denying anymore that the world is getting warmer, and it would take a fool to think that it does not have something to do with the pollution we are producing.
This is why I hope that all of you have some concern for the environment and are making an effort to recycle, turn off your lights and choose fuel efficient methods of transportation. But what if I told you that what the vast majority of you are eating was doing worse things for our planet than any SUV or discarded pop can?
In a 2006 report, the UN concluded that livestock is doing more to accelerate global warming then all forms of transportation combined.
I'll give you a minute to chew on that...It doesn't matter if you decide to walk or drive a hybrid car to work, if you are eating a steak or drinking a glass of milk when you get home then you are completely undoing any of your environmental good will.
The report states:
When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.
And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
-- "Livestock a Major Threat to Environment", November, 29, 2006
In addition to being a huge contributor to Global Warming, there are many other important environmental hazards associated with the livestock industry, and the vast majority of them are directly related to the waste produced by the livestock themselves.
There is little to no regulation in the United States for the treatment and disposal of animal feces and urine, large amounts of it end up in our rivers and streams. This has been wrecking havoc on the fish population of the world. In the Gulf of Mexico, there is a "Dead Zone", an area in which the vast majority of sea animals and plants have died. A 2006 study by Princeton concluded that run off from manure was a major contributor to this area, which is currently half the size of Maryland. Ohh and remember, if fish drink the contaminated water and you eat the contaminated fish (or eat something that has eaten that contaminated fish) then it will end up in your body, one way or another.
In places where there are regulations against polluting the water with animal manure, there is still a threat to people's air. Many farmers spray liquid manure into the air, which in turn gets inhaled...charming thought, I know. The California State Senate recently did a study on the issue and stated: “Studies have shown that [animal waste] lagoons emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation and neurochemical problems in humans.” If it is doing that to us, imagine what it is doing to the wildlife in the area or the environment all around us?
Additional polluters from the livestock industry come from the additional transportation and harvesting that needs to be done for the food of the livestock, but that will be the topic for the next edition of "It Ain't Easy Being Green", when I discuss wasted resources.
While I realize that you may not be directly harming the environment by eating meat, but every time you use your money to purchase some animal products you are financially supporting those who are damaging our environment. This makes you just as responsible.
So if you can't afford a hybrid car anytime soon, I am sure that you can all afford to buy a salad instead of a steak. Mother nature will thank you.
Until next time,
Take 1 - Pacifism
Take 2 - The Environment
Take 3 - Pesticides, and Poo, and Pus, Oh My!
Take 4 - Distribution of Resources